Our Competitive Future Depends on Clean Energy

An ongoing debate exists in this country and around the world about whether or not the need to transition away from dirty fuels and toward a clean energy economy is truly pressing. I’d like to simply make the case here that we’re playing with fire, not in a “touchy-feely, climate change is bad” kind of way, but in an “America will not be able to economically compete” kind of way.

In a recent New York Times article, Portugal was featured for increasing its percentage of renewable energy from 17% five years ago to 45% last year.

Americans are a proud and patriotic bunch.  Why is it so difficult to see that continuing a reliance on dirty energy and foreign oil is simply bad for the U.S. in a future competitive landscape where countries like Portugal, Ireland, Spain and England may well have almost no trade deficits from purchasing foreign fuels? 

Europe as a whole is transitioning to clean energy much more quickly than the U.S.  Heck, even Texas surpassed its renewable energy goals 15 years ahead of schedule. It’s not without difficulties, sure.  Portugal’s citizens have complained of higher energy costs, for instance, and data shows that there may be some truth to it.  (I would venture to guess that those prices will come down over time, rather than electricity created from old, dirty fuels which are only getting more scarce and thus more expensive).

In perhaps the biggest battle in the war over America’s future competitiveness in the global marketplace, in California, the green economy is under attack.  The attackers are two Texas-based oil companies, and the Kansas-based Koch brothers, who have funded Prop 23, a dirty trick from some dirty companies that would, for all intents and purposes, permanently damage the brightest spot in California’s economy, which is clean tech.  Google and many clean tech companies have come to the table with funding to fight Prop 23.

The fight, obviously, has broad implications.  If Prop 23 succeeds in California, the hope for America transitioning to energy independence takes a major hit.  So…California voters, I’m not going to tell you how to vote, but if you …VOTE NO ON 23…, you tell Texas, Kansas, and oil companies to shove it, and you invest in an America that is clean, renewable, and economically competitive. You also help us take a major step toward averting future oil spills, which, I think we can all agree, even Texas-based oil companies, are not good for anyone.


Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business (McGraw-Hill) and Principal of GreenBusinessOwner.com.  Follow Scott on Facebook and Twitter!

Scott Cooney, Principal of GreenBusinessOwner.com and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched GreenBusinessOwner.com, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.